Learning Sciences: A Virtual Round-table


Three experts discuss learning sciences in week one of a seven week long virtual round-table discussion.


Over the next seven weeks, the editors of Reflections on the Learning Sciences will be participating in a virtual round-table discussion on the learning sciences.


Michael A. Evans, North Carolina State University

Martin J. Packer, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

R. Keith Sawyer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Why learning sciences?

Michael A. Evans

The learning sciences was formed in response to several parallel events occurring in educational research in the early 1990’s in the US and Europe, as detailed in Part 1: Past of the book, including a sense that: 1) educational research needed to be taken seriously as a science; and 2) the methodologies that had been adopted from, in particular, cognitive science, were insufficient to deal with the “messy” conditions found in classrooms, where control of variables was inherently problematic. In my mind, the learning sciences provide a means to establish a coherent theoretical foundation for the field as well as rigorous and productive methodologies to improve educational practices.

Martin J. Packer

The goal of learning sciences is a highly ambitious one. It is to work in “Pasteur’s Quadrant”: that is, to conduct research that not only contributes to our basic understanding of learning, but also transforms and improves the practices and activities which facilitate learning. Since the creation of the learning sciences, researchers have showed creativity, discipline, and perseverance in conducting research that lives up this ambition. Their approach is often one of “design-based research.”

R. Keith Sawyer

The learning sciences is an interdisciplinary endeavor that brings together the many disciplines that do research related to how people learn. Schools and teachers face many challenges as they educate our children. And today, our children need an increasingly complex range of skills and abilities, including critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. More than ever, we need for school practices to be grounded in solid scientific research.

*Next week, the authors discuss new research in the field of learning sciences

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About the Author: Martin J. Packer

Martin J. Packer is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. He is the author of The Structure of Moral Action, Changing Classes: School Reform and the New Economy, and The Science of Qualitative Research. He is also co-editor of Entering the Circle: Hermeneutic Investigation in Psychology (with Richard...

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About the Author: Michael A. Evans

Michael A. Evans is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University, where he is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. His numerous articles have appeared in journals such as the International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative L...

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About the Author: R. Keith Sawyer

R. Keith Sawyer is the Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 2nd edition; Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, 2nd edition; and Group Genius: The Creative P...

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